Ordinary Thanksgiving Day 12, 13, 14

Playing a bit of catch up here:

Day 12

I’m thankful today for the ordinary means of grace, the preaching of the word, and my faithful pastors. I’m thankful for my local church. These are both ordinary and supernatural.

Day 13

I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful for my little home, my brothers and sisters, my parents, my nieces and nephews, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. I love them all.

I’m also thankful for the family I married into. For my extra parents, extra siblings, extra nieces and nephews, extra grandparents, extra cousins, and extra aunts and uncles. I love you all and I’m blessed to be a Jones.

Day 14

I’m thankful for stories. I’m thankful for they way they share, teach, and the us together. I’m thankful to live in a world that tells stories.

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Thanksgiving (Day 6): By Grace, Not Left Alone

Today, I’m thankful for my husband, my fellow Pilgrim, and ask he does  for me, for us, and our church:
Down the road of life—this pilgrim way—we walk

Sometimes it flies by on dark wings filled with speeding change.

Other times it crawls on said knees with no visible motion.

Through these trials, light gleams,

a single bulb, a blazing sun, a candle flame:

GRACE

And yet, what grace! It would have been enough to give us this faith-based light, but more is kindly given:

Faithful companions!

See? Kindness, compassion, gifts:

faithful fellow pilgrims—our church body, our families, our spouses.

Oh our spouses, who in all the darkness of intimate sins, plod along at our sides

laughter, long and late nights, routine,

What a gentle sweet communion between two limping pilgrims helping each other

supporting, carrying, cheering,

praying, weeping towards the Celestial City.

What grace the kind Lord gives us in

Friends

Family

Spouses

and the Church.

These our fellow pilgrims, fellow warriors, fellow saints, the children of the Standing Lamb.

Rachel Atterholt’s Graduation

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Rachel on the right.

My dear friend, Rachel Atterholt, graduated from High School and I was honored to be asked by her parents to say a few words at her Graduation Party. I just thought I’d share them here:

I want to start by saying Congratulations on Graduating from High School and getting your GED! That’s one of the first milestones of life with many more to come! You stand at the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood with adventures, battles, sufferings, and great joy ahead of you.

One of your favorite quotes is the well-known line from Robert Frost: I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: two roads diverged in a wood an I – I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.

So, what do I say as a woman with a few more milestones under her belt, to you a woman about to face them? What do I say about the ‘road less traveled’?

Here’s the advice I wished I had heard…or in reality, what I wished I listened to:

The true road less traveled, and more important than any career, friends, dreams, aspirations, life goals or your family is your church. All around you the world is screaming to at you to pursue happiness, pursue your dreams, live life, get out there and be a roaring woman.

What you need to do is invest yourself in your church. Look, listen, pay attention, and figure out how you can serve your body. Value the preaching of the Word. Make this your life’s priority and you will be on the narrow, less traveled road.

This is more important than a boyfriend, romance, true love, getting married, having kids, your sisters and your parents. Your church is your first thing. Not second. Not third. First.

After that and only after that comes everything else.

This is the best advice I can give you as you graduate from high school and face adulthood.

Your favorite Bible verse is, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.

You have faced trials already—health issues, relationship issues, life issues—and, I hate to tell you, you will face many more. Life here on earth is a constant battle, constant hand-to-hand combat between our remaining sin, the sinful world, and following Christ. But God, who is rich in mercy, is working all things for our good. Each trial, each bit of stress, each battle is working to make us more like Christ. More battles are coming in your life. Cling to Christ and his word.

Rachel, I’m privileged and honored to be your friend, to read your writing, to share movies and music with you! More than that, I’m thankful to watch you seek the Lord, attend church regularly, host teas, help in the kitchen, and be involved.

I hope and pray that as you end one stage of your life and sort through what you want the next stage to be that you’ll be a faithful church member, feed on the preaching of the word, and grow in wisdom and grace.

Happy Graduation!

 

Thanksgiving 3: My Church

Courtesy of Google.

Courtesy of Google.

I’m thankful for my church. I love my church family. They are kind, engaged, have hearts full of service, love the truth and love each other. I’ve been a member at Heritage Baptist Church for 20 years and there is no other church I’d rather have made a vow to. I pray  the Lord continues to bless us, gives us more opportunities to plant other churches, serve our associations, and that we will see our children saved. I pray the Lord will bless our young people with a love for the truth, that He’ll give great wisdom to our parents, and that our pastors and teachers would be bold. I love my local body and our sister churches.

Count the Cost: A Letter to New Believers (or a letter to my younger self)

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Dear New Believer,

It’s hard to imagine as a young believer how much you face. A baby can’t know the heartache of growing up. You can’t know the heartache this choice to follow Christ will bring you. In some ways—and please don’t misunderstand me or read this with any bitterness, but only with a tender longing—I want to tell you not to do this. You have no idea how hard and dark your path will be, and how much of that hardness and darkness will be based on your ‘choice’ to be a Christian.

You will be forced to choose, almost daily, between the things you love and Christ . . . not in big ‘martyr’ type ways, but in private, little ways which will seem insignificant to the world, but might mean the world to you. You may have to decide to leave a group of friends you love because one of them is living in open sin and by hanging out with them you lend credence and support to their life decision. You may face setting aside what is good for what is better, but only in the eyes of a handful of people. You may have to stand up to your friends facing life alone and in the dark. You will have to choose Christ over what and who you love. You will have to choose between what you can’t see and what you can.

Count the cost.

You will have to decide not to watch a TV Show you’re interested in. (See how un-glamorous the Christian life can be?) More so, you will have to spend the rest of your life thinking about everything constantly. You will have to judge your heart at every moment never resting. The fun part? Things change. A TV show which didn’t go against your conscience last year, may prick it the next time you watch it. You must practice Constant Vigilance, but not against enemies sneaking in, but the enemy within. In choosing to become a Christian and follow Christ, you have made an enemy out of your very heart, mind, and body. Do you want to do the hard work of living with an enemy all the time?

Guard

Count the cost.

As you get older, the choices get harder.

Count the cost of choosing things the world doesn’t understand and deal with being called a fool.

It gets harder.

Saved at a young age, growing up in a home-schooled, conservative, Christian home doesn’t give someone much of an opportunity or desire for blatant sinning. Let me warn you. You think that being mean to your siblings, getting upset with your parents, or skipping out on chores is bad, wait until you get older and wrestle with your own sin nature a little more. It doesn’t get better. You don’t sin less. If you stick with this whole Christian thing, you will go from thinking you’ve got it all together to realizing just what a sick, selfish, God-hating, relationship destroying monster you really are. It’s not fun. It’s more fun, it’s easier, to think you have it all together and that you’ll just have it together more as you get older.

Count the cost.

The road you have chosen promises you a difficult marriage, a life of constant guarding of your heart and mind, working for others and thinking little to none of yourself, being on the outside of culture, being thought of as strange, in a cult, belittled, labeled as wasting your life, never well-known for your creativity, and living a life of insignificance. And that’s the easy Christian life, the ‘first-world’ Christian life. Some believers face lost jobs, rejection by this world AND by fellow believers, the suffering of their children, and loss of their own life.

Count the cost!

This isn’t a fun life. It’s hard, toilsome, sweaty, uncomfortable, and ugly.

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Count the cost, but also, start now. If I could instill one thing in your mind, it would be Start Now. Forgo waiting around to do all the ‘normal’ things and busy yourself with your church. You were just baptized and you took a vow of membership. Many of us looked to the day we would say our marriage vows, but did you pay attention to the vows you just made to the people sitting around you? Are you taking them seriously? If so, you need to spend less time thinking about Friday night, who’s cute, who’s annoying, that TV show you love, and what degree you want to get in college, and start thinking about serving your church family.

Help the older members. Do you have a driver’s license? Go to the elderly in your church and mow their lawn, clean their house, water their plants. Forgo your parties and serve your church.

Study theology. It’s not for stuffy old men who never had adventures. It’s the very truth of God to whom you just promised your life. Make church a priority. I can’t stress that enough. This will make you different in a weird way and possibly poor, but put your church before your schooling and your job. Don’t sacrifice your youth to establish your career at the detriment of your church. Put church first and the rest below that. It won’t win you any fame or many friends. It may lose you a high-paying job and really cool friends who are going places. It may mean you have to pass up on dreams because the people who are successful work on Sunday.

Sit down at the feet of Christians who are older than you, not at the feet of other teens. Your life seems ahead of you with so much time to be and do. It may or may not be.

Count the cost.

I didn’t do this. Most of my young single years were spent on me. Yes, I was growing and learning, but I applied myself to this world and little to my eternity. How I wish that I’d spent more time loving my church and less time seeking this world.

I wish I ‘d spent more time using my energy being helpful to my church family, being engaged there, memorizing Scripture and applying my mind humbly to theology, and less time at the mall, concerts, hanging out, or watching movies. I would have seemed strange to the world. I would have probably looked strange, but I still wish I’d been wiser with my time.

Count the cost.

In all this, I’m thankful for each horrendous trial the Lord brought in my life, for while I feel so much of my youth was wasted, the Lord used all of it. I’m humbly thankful for all He’s done in my life. But, they were hard-won and hard-fought lessons. They weren’t a walk through fields of flowers.

Count the cost.

Are you ready to learn what a sinner you are? Are you ready to be rejected by fellow ‘believers’ and labeled a cultist and possibly dangerous? Are you ready to lose your grip on this world? Are you ready to give up on your dreams of houses, children, a spouse, education, artistic expression, career, and more for Christ? Are you ready to be an old maid instead of living in this world if the Lord calls you to that? Are you willing to give up what makes you feel alive if it’s not serving your church? Are you willing to put your church before your family? Are you ready to stick with and love people who may annoy you? Are you ready to give the best that you are for something the world sees as a waste of time?

Being a Christian will not guarantee you get married or that your marriage will be happy. It won’t guarantee you have kids or that you get to keep them. It won’t guarantee your safety, health, or wealth.

Count the cost.

Being a Christian will guarantee you a hard life, filled with sin, surrounded by the least and weakest of people.

Count the cost. It is great though often unseen.

So, why do we do it, us older Christians? Because Christ saves sinners. It is all of grace and none of ourselves.

"Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him." - 2 Timothy 2: 3-4

“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” – 2 Timothy 2: 3-4


 

(Our church just baptized several of our young people. What a blessing to see them take communion for the first time, become members with us, and do this first act of public obedience. Yet, as a now older Christian, there is a part of me that wonders if we would take these first steps if we knew what was coming? I hope the spirit of this letter is understood. I in no way regret my walk with the Lord. It is my life. But, I do wish I had had the capacity to dedicate my life more fully to the Lord at a younger age. I wish I had loved my church then as I do now. He is sovereign over that and I trust Him with my rate of sanctification.)

All that is Gold: So Heavenly minded you’re no Earthly Good

All that is gold does not glitter

“All that is gold does not glitter….”

This cliché phrase gets bandied about all the time.  Everyone’s familiar with it.  I’ve heard many a lesson, rabbit trail, and sermon on how it’s impossible to be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.  I fully agree with my pastors, that it is impossible.  But, it’s taken me some time to understand what this means from a worldly perspective, why people use it, and how I’ve listened to its lies over the years.

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Last year, my husband and I sold our relatively successful small business.  My husband ultimately left this choice to me.  I was the face of the business.  I ran the front end of our boutiques, while he did all the bookwork, systematization, and big picture things.  In many ways, he loved our business far more than I did, but when he asked me if I wanted to sell it, I hesitated.  Why?  Significance.  I had wrapped most of my personal identity around being a business owner.  For ten years, I basked in the praise lavished on me by my community for my wisdom, management skills, and fashion knowledge.  I had successful older women who wanted to work for me.  I had young women who wanted to learn from me.  I had customers who wanted to talk to me every day.  On big sale days, I had lines outside my boutique doors.  I was, in a small way, significant.  When I thought through selling our business, I feared losing that significance.  Who would I be without it?  I would be Mrs. Price Jones.  That’s who I would be.

Oh, the subtle lies of the world, how they twist and turn and steal inside us.  I didn’t find it very significant to be Mrs. Price Jones.  I didn’t find being a housewife and homemaker very exciting….and I feared the remarks I would face when I told my customers that I wanted to sell our business to b

e a housewife and have more time to serve our church.  They would say I was being so heavenly minded I was no earthly good.

There is another side to this story because a woman’s heart and mind is never simple, but always complex.  I always wanted to be a homemaker, since I was a little, little girl.  I was not happy owning the stores.  I felt like they took my best from me and left me with little to give my church, husband, and family.  My husband and I had come to the realization that the sparkle of worldly success was nothing more than that – a cheap sparkle in a $5 ring.  We wanted to use our time and talent to lay up our treasures in heaven.  We wanted to stop saying no to our church family and our physical family and start saying yes.  We wanted to serve them.  We wanted to be so heavenly minded we were no earthly good.

Both of these things were going on in my heart at the same time.  Keeping the store meant a small amount of worldly significance.  Selling the story meant a new life of service to our church that nobody but our church would appreciate.  It meant looking other women in the face and telling them I was a stay at home wife.  Do you know how despised that profession is in our society?  Women look at you like you must sit around all day doing nothing but getting fat and being lazy.  It’s so hard not to qualify the choice we’ve made with a list of all my projects, as if to justify myself.

I think this is where the cliché of being so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good initiated.  Christians chose to give up what the world valued to do things the world didn’t value.  For me, it was when I stopped wanting to be an elf, and saw the beauty and magic of being a hobbit, of living a quiet life.  Age does this to you.  You don’t want to live in this earth forever.  I had to learn, and keep learning to trust my significance to my heavenly Father, not to the works of my hands.

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This is an ongoing process.  The Lord has blessed my husband and my efforts to serve our church and our families.  He has shown us the tarnished, worthless sparkle of a world in a pre-ash state.  But we are such sight bound beings, and sometimes that sparkle looks so promising.  So the Lord keeps showing the lie to us.  Recently, He has done this for me by helping me see that I could use my writing ability to edify and help other believers.  I had to give up another small bit of worldly significance.  Not something wrong, but something good for something better, and something only faith can see as significant, not sight.

This has led me to start becoming someone I previously disliked.  Even as a Christian, I would find other Christians who I felt were so heavenly, so holy, they were….well just boring, kinda strange, and so insignificant.  They read all this holy stuff and never Steven King.  They listened to all this Christian music and never Florence and the Machine, or Metallica.  They weren’t up on the latest geeky TV show, or any TV show, geeky or not.  I mean, what was wrong with these people.  They were so heavenly minded they were no earthly fun.

And now here I am.  I would rather be at church, my church, with my church family than anywhere else in the world.  I enjoy old hymns more than I enjoy pop songs.  I have a growing stack of religious books on my desk that I’m actually reading, not just thinking I should probably read them.  I have bible verses on my walls instead of inspirational quotes….though there is still a fair amount of Tolkien mixed in.  Why?  Why this change?  Why this pulling away from the world?  Because the older I get, the more aware I am of my own sin and God’s grace.  I’m not a good person.  I’m a wretched sinner.  I need God.  Not as an opium, I need Him as a savior.  I need Him as my savior.  I am lost without Him.  I have no hope without Him.  The older I get, the more He gently leads me away from this life and towards the one to come.  I am becoming, to the world, of no value.  I live a quiet life, serve my church, and Lord Willing, write moralistic stories for children.  My life is not changing the world.  My talents aren’t being used to eradicate poverty, stop war, or starvation.  My talents are set at the scarred feet of Christ and He is using them in a small Texas church.  And my significance?  I find it all in Him and not in me.  Someday better than others, but He is longsuffering.  He has sealed me and will not give me up even as He helps me give up this world.